Religion

Post about Religious topics. My spiritual journey is a subtopic of this.

Eclipse Reflections

Today, there were lots of discussions on social media about the eclipse. One religious friend posted that he didn’t see what the big deal about the eclipse was. I responded, “I like anything that gets people to stop and look at God's creation differently and to share with one another a sense of awe”

Another friend posted about lost productivity. I responded,

“My wife and I took vacation to watch the eclipse. The productivity would have been lost whether we were watching the eclipse or doing something else.

Yet thinking about the beauty of the eclipse, it seems like we need to ask, is productivity really the ultimate aim of our lives?”

Friends that saw totality have been posting about how wonderful and magical it was. It was my fourth total eclipse and I look forward to many more. Two years from now in Argentina? Seven years from now in the United States again? We’ll see which ones we manage to make it to.

On one friends reflections, I commented:

“We had a wonderful impromptu eclipse party down in Castalian Springs. People from Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Russia, and I'm not sure where all else, sharing stories, eclipse glasses, peaks through telescopes, Prosecco, ad contact information to stay in touch.

It has been a wonderful day, and I too, love that so many of us from various different backgrounds could stop, even briefly, to enjoy one another and some of the beauty of creation.”

So my hope remains. However you think about creation, the creator, the source of beauty, the source of kindness, the source of love, I hope that you managed to stop and appreciate a little of the beauty of the created world, and share some joy and love from that experience to those around you.

Radical Inclusion

As I prepare to start seminary next month, I am reading various books from the recommended reading list. One book, Radical Welcome by the Rev. Stephanie Spellers has particularly caught my attention. While the focus is more on how local churches can be more welcoming, in a radically transforming manner, there is much in the book that could be considered for other parts of the ecclesiastical structure or even for our country as a whole.

After Charlottesville, I have been wondering about how our civic life can become more radically welcome, up to, and including how we can welcome those young men who are being drawn away by hate filled ideologies like white supremacy.

In an interview, ‘I’m not the angry racist they see’: Alt-Righter became viral face of hate in Virginia — and now regrets it, Peter Cvjetanovic, the face of the torch wielding angry crowd on Friday evening says,

“I came to this march for the message that white European culture has a right to be here just like every other culture,” Cvjetanovic opined. “It is not perfect; there are flaws to it, of course. However I do believe that the replacement of the statue will be the slow replacement of white heritage within the United States and the people who fought and defended and built their homeland. Robert E Lee is a great example of that. He wasn’t a perfect man, but I want to honor and respect what he stood for during his time.”

It is easy to dismiss this as the self-justification of someone whose hatred and wrong-doing has been exposed. It is far more challenging to accept him as another person loved by God and created in God’s image. It is far more challenging to listen to what he has to say and work towards reconciliation.

What is this “white European culture” he is talking about? What does that mean to him, to us, to those who have been oppressed for generations by representatives of this “white European culture”? As we take down statues of Robert E. Lee, what can we put up that radically includes those who feel their culture slipping away?

As a northerner, I find parts of my heritage challenged. Thanksgiving was a very important day for me, but I have grown to understand how it is not a day of celebration for those who were here before white Europeans came and I seek ways of celebrating my ancestors arrival in a way that is respectful of those who were already here. I seek to learn about and celebrate their culture as well.

What are the things that white Europeans from the south can celebrate? The first thing that comes to my mind is Juneteenth. If you don’t know what that is and don’t celebrate it, go out and spend some time learning. What are other things? I don’t know. I hope my white European friends from the south can share some ideas. Perhaps it has to do with Flannery O’Connor or William Faulkner. Perhaps it has something to do with southern cuisine.

If we can radically welcome young white men who fear their culture is slipping away, perhaps they can join with us as we all battle symbols of hatred and oppression.

In the Shadow of #Charlottesville: Blessed are the Peacemakers – Ginny Bouvier

This morning, I delivered the homily at the memorial service for Ginny Bouvier. Before I speak, I like to spend time in prayer. This morning, before my prayer time, I glanced at the news on Facebook. The wife of a friend of mine was gathering with clergy in Charlottesville, VA in response to the Unite the Right march planed there. I watched a live stream from Charlottesville of clergy praying and singing this little light of mine before I shutdown the computer, prayed, and headed over to the service.

I mentioned Charlottesville and the importance of peacemakers in our country, here today before I delivered the following homily. Please continue to pray for peace, for peacemakers, as well as for those who mourn the passing of a great peacemaker.

Today, we gather to remember Ginny Bouvier. Mingled with the grief and sadness of her passing, I suspect many of us will also feel a sense of awe and wish we had known Ginny better. You see, today we are remembering an important peacemaker. Jesus spoke about peacemakers in the Beatitudes. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”. Sometimes we may think of ourselves as peacemakers - like when we get to friends to make up after a silly argument. That’s an important form of peacemaking. Yet Ginny’s peacemaking was on a very different level. In her position as chief of operations in Colombia for the U.S. Institute of Peace, she played a vital role in reaching the peace treaty which resulted in Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

I’ve always been interested in those who work behind the scenes, the way Ginny did. I remember when I first learned about the life of St. Francis of Assisi and wondered who were those nuns that prayed over him. St. Francis asked God to make him an instrument of God’s peace, and I think those nuns played an important, though often overlooked role.

Perhaps this tells us something about some of Ginny’s success. You see, Ginny included the overlooked in her work. The United States Institute of Peace noted that the peace accord was “unprecedented in its inclusion of victims, women and minorities, due in no small part to Ginny’s unrelenting support and advice to so many of those involved”.

An obituary in the Wellesley Underground, an alternative alumnae magazine, speaks of Ginny as a “secret Wellesley” an important person whom others find out later, went to Wellesley. Ginny “had been the first ever Latin American Studies major at Wellesley”. The author goes on to say, “though she hasn’t been part of the pantheon of Wellesley heroes, many of us who work on gender, peacebuilding, or Latin America policy would agree she deserves to be.”

Another aspect of Ginny, which is very important to many of us here, was her love of poetry. Her mother Jane told me that while Ginny was in the hospital, a young Dominican brother came and read her poetry, almost every day. It is part of why the adapted version of John Donne’s No Man is an Island is so meaningful. It was adapted to be more inclusive, the way Ginny worked on making the peace process in Colombia more inclusive. It was adapted to reference Colombia because of her work for peace there and how Colombia is the less as a result of her passing. The bell tolls for Colombia. It tolls for all of us.

Her love of literature went beyond just poetry. In 2014, when Gabriel García Márquez died, she wrote a blog post in memory of him. “The entire world mourns with Colombia as we also celebrate his life and legacy.” We can say the same about her life and legacy.

Later on in the blog post, she writes, “It is ultimately our capacity for imagination and faith that allows hope to triumph over despair, life to conquer death, love to conquer hate, and forgiveness to win out over vengeance. In the end, it is our exercise of imagination that allows peace to claim victory over war.”

These are important words for us to consider today. Our imagination and faith will sustain us as we mourn. It fits nicely with the reading from Revelation. The Faith Study Group here at Grace and St. Peter’s has been studying this book and this week we discussed the passage read today.

“God will wipe away every tear from their eyes”. It is the promise to those “who have come safely through the terrible persecution”. It is also God’s promise to us today.

As Jane and I talked about the music for the service we tried to find some way of working “Julian of Norwich”, sometimes called “Loud are the bells of Norwich” by Sydney Carter into the program.

“All shall be well, I'm telling you, let the winter come and go. All shall be well again, I know. “

So, as we mourn the passing of Ginny Bouvier, let us all aspire to be peacemakers, to include those too often overlooked, to rely on our faith and imagination, and to trust that God will wipe away every tear and all shall be well again. Amen

The Daily Office and Maximizing Mission

One thing I have asked of the Lord,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life;
to behold the beauty of the Lord
and to seek Him in His temple.

Recently, I’ve been attempting to pray Celtic Daily Prayer each morning from the Northumbria Community Daily Office. I save additional reflections on what it might mean to dwell in the house of the Lord in the Celtic context for a different post. For the time being, I’ll simply quote John Scotus Eriugena

Christ wears two shoes in the world: Scripture and nature. Both are necessary to understand the Lord, and at no stage can creation be seen as a separation of things from God.

Instead, I want to start off thinking about this story: Eric Trump Picked a Fight With Keith Olbermann on Twitter. It Did Not Go Well.

Eric Trump tweeted, “You mean the $16.3 million dollars I have raised for dying children (before the age of 33) at a 12% expense ratio.”

One thing I have asked of the Lord, to keep my expense ratio low….

To me, this seems to capture the fundamental issue underlying America today, what matters to you? Is it lower taxes, lower expense ratios, maximizing revenue?

I am not arguing against fiscal responsibility. I think that is important. The head of the health center I work at often says, “No margin, no mission”. Efforts to serve to common good must be sustainable. Yet the goal isn’t maximizing the margin, it is maintaining the mission.

Unfortunately, this focus of maximizing the margin has become a be all and end all for too many people.

Deleuze, Guattari, Fanon, Bannon, and the Synod of Whitby

Reading time: Several days. Read a little bit of it. Think about it. Maybe write something of your own. Come back to this later, wash, rinse, repeat.

Recently, I’ve been stumbling across a lot of random thoughts that seem to relate, in one way or another to other thoughts. Perhaps a good way of thinking about how they all fit together is with the concept of Rhizome from Deleuze and Guattari. The article "THE RHIZOME" - AN AMERICAN TRANSLATION provides a nice starting point. How do our thoughts link together, other than in the five paragraph essay? This post may meander a little bit, and live out a little of exploring my personal rhizome.

As an aside, the article talks about Wikipedia with an interesting comment,

Hell, there’s a whole game built around getting from one Wikipedia page to another using only hyperlinks. If Wikipedia isn’t a rhizome, we quit philosophy.

As a person who has always enjoyed reading encyclopedias, especially following links from one article to the next, even before the days of Wikipedia, this particularly resonated with me. I think I should find out more about the game or create my own version to play with friends, especially those who like Deleuze.

One of the things I want to write soon is my thoughts about which classes to take at divinity school when I start in the fall. One of the courses makes reference to systematic theology. More and more, I’m thinking of an asystematic theology, a rhizomatic wandering, perhaps closer to Celtic Christianity’s Peregrinatio than more specific pilgrimages where there is a clear path and clear destination.

But I digress.

I remember once hearing that the most common phrase in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer is “Or this.” Perhaps the most common phrase for me, in this post, and perhaps beyond will be “but I digress”.

I’ve thought about this asystematic theology, perhaps as an epic poem, as “The Divine Rhizome”. We’ll see if my wanderings take me there.

Back to recent online posts and my thoughts about divinity school courses: A year or so ago, I got into a discussion with my eldest daughter about postcolonialism. I spent a little time looking at the writings of Franz Fanon. I was interested to see a post the other day that referenced Fanon. Excommunicate Me from the Church of Social Justice.

Postcolonialist black Caribbean philosopher Frantz Fanon in his 1961 book Wretched of the Earth writes about the volatile relationship between the colonizer and the colonized, and the conditions of decolonization. In it, he sharply warns the colonized against reproducing and maintaining the oppressive systems of colonization by replacing those at top by those previously at the bottom after a successful revolution.

This idea should come as no surprise to anyone who has read Animal Farm.

If we take this further, I suspect that I’ll end up reading Lisa Duggan and her writings on Homonormativity and Homonationalism. This is another writer that my eldest daughter has recommended to me.

Meanwhile, back to my thoughts about divinity school. I had a great discussion with one of the professors about Agamben’s work on Homo Sacer. Particularly we talked about his book, Cain, Abel, and the Politics of God: An Agambenian reading of Genesis 4:1-16 (Routledge Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Biblical Criticism). The idea is intriguing and so I started reading up on Agamben.

I found a great video outlining Agamben’s ideas, AGAMBEN HOMO SACER ANIMATIC. It seems like new colonialists designating those who disagree with them as homo sacer ties back nicely to Fanon and postcolonialism.

I’ve been wondering how all of this relates to one’s thoughts about religious institutions. Recently, I read Scott Cairns’ Short Trip to the Edge: A Pilgrimage to Prayer. It is a really wonderful book about his journey. While Cairns writes about going to Mt. Athos, there is a rhizomatic aspect to the journey that is really appealing. It paints a very attractive image of Eastern Orthodoxy, with a few blemishes to keep things real.

Likewise, I’ve recently read JP Newell’s Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality. This too, is a wonderful book, painting a very attractive image of another Christian tradition. There is a lot of criticism of the imperial church, the church of the Roman Empire and I wonder how this fits together with thoughts about Christianity in the west today, as people stop going to church because it is the socially acceptable thing to do; about the post-establishment church.

For the past forty years, I’ve been an Episcopalian. I’ve worshiped at some pretty established social register churches. One of the books that had been recommended to me early on during the current phase of my spiritual journey, and came on the reading list for divinity school is Dwight Zscheile’s People of the Way: Renewing Episcopal Identity.

I know a lot of people recommend it and it does have some good stuff in it, but so far, I’m about a third of the way into it, it feels more like a book about trying to figure out what Episcopal Identity in the twenty first century should be, which is a strong contrast to Cairn’s or Newell’s books which are much more about, look at the neat stuff of our traditions.

What I like about the Anglican tradition is the reconnecting of the spiritual to the vernacular. It seems as if the vernacular is changing more rapidly, right now, than the Episcopal Church has been able to. I touched on this a bit in a previous blog post and I’ll probably frequently return to this idea.

Last night I came across this line in Zscheile’s book:

Many people in today’s world are looking for an authentic lived faith

It made me think of a post I saw on Facebook the other day,

“I've grown suspicious of anyone who says, "Love is the answer." Maybe 1 in 100 walk the talk.” Friend on Facebook.

This post has gotten long enough, so I think I’ll pause here for the time being. But before I go, I’ll add this one link:

Inside The 'Shakespearean Irony' Of Trump And Bannon's Relationship.

How does the political and the religious inter-relate, especially in a postcolonial world, looked at through a lens of Deleuze, Guattari, and Agamben? How do faith and social justice interact with the ‘establishment’, whether we are thinking about establishment from the view of Fanon, Bannon, or those with Celtic tonsures after the Synod of Whitby?

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